Teetotaling on the Truckee
An alcohol ban on the Truckee River has turned from talk among Tahoe officials to legislation floating through the state capitol.
A group of eight California senators recommended approval of Senate Bill 1159 on Tuesday. If the legislation becomes law it will give Placer County officials the authority to shut down summer alcohol consumption on the Truckee River, according to Jennifer Merchant, Placer County Tahoe manager.
Merchant and two other members of local government testified before the State
Governmental Organization Committee this week. Capt. Jeff Granum of the Placer County Sheriff’s Department told the panel about the public health issues associated with hard-partying holiday rafters. Jill Pahl, director of Environmental Health for Placer County, talked about environmental degradation caused by thousands of intoxicated boaters on the river. Merchant focused on the local economy and tourism.
“So far, we have good support from the merchants along the river,” Merchant said, adding that the river is a key to their economic survival.
Merchant said officials within the county hope to gain the authority to shut off alcohol consumption before the height of the tourist season.
“Our hope is to have it in place by the Forth of July holiday,” she said.
The amount of people floating down the river on the summer holiday nearly doubled last year, Merchant said. Officials stationed at the “pipe bridge” counted 2,023 people passing under the bride in a two-hour period on July 4 2007, compared to 1,115 people passing the same spot in 2006.
Merchant said supportive businesses include the River Ranch Lodge, the two licensed rafting companies, the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association and the U.S. Forest Service. According to language within the bill, “a person in a nonmotorized vessel” along the portion of river between the river’s headwaters at Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City and Alpine Meadows Bridge may not possess alcohol “during the summer holiday periods,” when the Placer County Board of Supervisors prohibits alcohol on the “land portions along the river.”
Although the ban will apply to the river, Merchant said Placer County supervisors will need to consider an ordinance to limit consumption of alcohol on the river banks.
The ban is not law yet, Merchant said, but must now go before the state Senate Appropriations Committee and then the entire Senate where all 40 members will have the opportunity to vote on it. From the Senate, the bill would go through the same process in the State Assembly. No dates have been established for those hearings at this time, according to Merchant. State Sen. Dave Cox authored and introduced the bill on Feb. 6.